In the Brett Weston DVD, Brett says "well I don't sell it, people come and buy it".
He has a show and people see and hear of his work and they seek him out. Wouldn't that be nice?
Direct mail can work for anyone, it just depends on the manner in which you approach it. A mailing list can be bought and structured very specifically depending on parameters/criteria you provide. From one penny to 4 or 5 cents per name (more variables=more money). So a list of 1000 names could be had as cheap as $100 up to $400-500.
A well designed piece catered to your clientele from a mailing list that was gathered with multiple specific criteria, designed, printed and mailed may cost around $1.00 per person, or $1000 for 1000 addresses. It could be as little as $600.
The info I've gathered is that out of 1000 mailings, perhaps 200 people (20%) will look at it to some extent before tossing where the rest just toss. Out of that 200, another 20% (40 households) will give it a good look. Out of that 40, maybe 10-20% will keep it, either for future reference, immediate interest, or pass on to someone they know. That's 4-8 households. Then maybe half that will call and inquire.
One gig from that for someone like Cheryl doing family/children portraits will come close to paying for that mailing. Then add to that the new clients future needs, word of mouth (from a new source you didn't have) and I would say well worth it.
Add to that the name recognition that will be implanted to some extent in those initial 200, who may at some time down the road have a need for your service and remember.
Many think or expect an immediate response where it is sometimes several months down the road. Advertising is an investment in yourself.
One of the biggest mistakes is to think you don't need to advertise, however you decide to do it. I have a good steady clientele, but in todays economy that could change very easily. I continuously market myself (my services) to current clientele and every three months, send a packet out to new businesses, or ones I discover who utilize my type of services. That may only be four or five or up to 10-12.
Each year (of my six years in business) has added at least one new corporate or business client. Each of those has (As I have tracked) referred me to subsequent clients, and etc. Before I started on my own, I worked in marketing which included advertising campaigns, focus group studies, as well as participation in outside consultants doing marketing analysis for us. I'm no expert, don't even come close, but I strongly believe in it.
Ask yourself how many differnt products or services you've used as a result of seeing their ad or receiving a direct mail piece. I admit though, (as a natural skeptic) do ask around for the best product/service/person in addition to what I see or receive as advertisement.
Considering what we have all spent on camera equipment, which took time for most of us to acquire, I think 1-$2k a year to advertise is nominal.
My business is primarily Commercial-Design, Marketing and Photography...so I have a bias on this topic.
Soon I will be implementing my services and abilities to promote sales for my fine art photography. I will do a mailer, very specific to a list I have already been fine tuning. I have some advantage as I can design and print it (at wholesale cost).
I recently did an email solicitation (for my prints) to a list of only 60 as an opportunity for them to pre-purchase a print at a certain size, at a discount over current print pricing, to help finance a (photography) road trip. I had eight bites (7.5%) and that paid for my gas and hotels while on the road for 30 days and over 7000 miles. I thought that was good considering none had seen any of my b&w darkroom work. They bought based soley on my rep as a commercial photographer and designer. I designed a PDF flier with a few images, history/bio.
A few others here that I'm aware of have done similar "pre-purchse" solicitations and done pretty well.
Another valid avenue is to pick 2-3 non-profits who do annual fundraisers that include silent auctions and donate a print (or as in Cheryl's biz, a session/service). The demographic is usually excellent and the visibility factor is good. Do the research and ask what the attendance is, etc.
Remember, the one who buys your print will likely hang it. Their guests/clients will also be exposed to your work (or service) and the word of mouth factor is then amplified.
There are many more avenues I am exploring and once I implement these and some time has passed to do a summation, I'll post that info if anyone is interested.
The most unique item you are selling is yourself.
Matt's Photo Site
"I invent nothing, I rediscover". Auguste Rodin
I have a feeling that, in some way, this is what surprisingly a lot of people are seriously hoping. That they will be the hidden treasure among the collectors when they are discovered.
While this may happen to a few people in a very while, I do not think that it is realistic. My feeling that things just do not happen "naturally." If you see a news anchor wearing a certain earring, there must be someone working hard to get her wear the earring behind the scene.
Certainly a quality has a lot to do with it, and I am sure you have to work hard to get to where you want to get to. But it still remains a fact that the marketing has a lot to do with it in my opinion.
My understanding was that AA's prints did not sell that much until he worked with a marketing person who did a tremendous amount of work to promote his work (Will someone confirm on this?).
In fact, I would like to even say a quality without marketing does not go anywhere, whereas, sadly enough, marketing with a mediocre quality goes much further. Think of all food products, businesses to politicians which are not necessarily good but they are popular enough to be where they are. I think it has a lot to do with how they market them to the right people.
Originally Posted by Curt
Last edited by Shinnya; 12-30-2006 at 11:36 AM. Click to view previous post history.
I disagree that direct mailing will work for everyone if done right.
A client's perception is everything. It's not just about getting their eyes on your work, it's about them realizing the value of your work. In high-end portraiture, being exclusive and selective with the jobs a photog takes creates the perception of value and desirability.
My clients are happy to pay $5000 and upwards on a single session because I am exclusive and I avoid all the typical portrait trappings being offered today. (Purses, jewelry, CD's, mugs, mousepads, yada yada.) If I were to start sending direct mail campaigns, my clients would be totally turned off.
It's the same reason I turned down an opportunity to display my work in a major shopping mall kiosk. I'm NOT a shopping mall portrait photog -- displaying there would be counterproductive to me.
Don't forget, too, that it's not just the physical cost of the mailings that counts. It's also the time spent designing those mailings, printing address labels, sticking them to thousands of cards (or whatever your process is), taking them to be mailed, dealing with the ones that are returned, sifting through the responses to find the client who is a good fit with your work style. Frankly, whether they like my work or not, I'm too expensive for most people.
Marketing is only effective if it reaches your specific audience and accomplishes what you need. In my case, I get FAR better return from approaches that cost me absolutely nothing, or close to it.
Oh, and thanks for the nice comments. From now on, my website will be www.TheBigPortraitPotato.com .
Well you may disagree as is your option.
And I can disagree as to why you disagree, as I will.
Your first sentence is a bit off. If it's done right, it should work.
Many don't do it right. A subjective area, but a real one. A client's perception is exactly what you're trying to create. Done right, it will have a cause and affect. Done wrong, well, you'll know soon enough. It has to be a consistent offering to work well and in the long run too. A one time shot isn't going to give a proper gauge.
I'm assuming you've done specific (to your demographic) mailings so have the facts to make that statement as to return. If so, then that is what you should adhere to, absolutely. No marketing effort has a guaranty.
If you've done both direct mail and then your approaches, perhaps share with us the facts. I'm sure many want other avenues and choices to consider.
I'll consider anything. I do disagree that your client base/demographic (for new clients) would not be reachable via direct mail. Again, I stress a well designed piece.
Not sure what you mean by exclusive, but what you're saying is what I mentioned, in affect. Sell yourself and what it is you offer that sets you apart from the norm or usual. Be it direct mail, magazine ads or whatever. Everyone one has an exclusivity to offer.
Did you rely on word of mouth since your first paying customer when you started out? Do you or did you advertise in the yellow pages? Surely you did some form of marketing back then. And surely you didn't start out finding people happily parting with $5k for a portrait session.
For those starting a business, whether it be child, general portraiture, fine art or advertising photography, marketing in some form is essential to build a business. My comments and insight was not addressing those who have reached their pinnacle, as you have.
Once you have established yourself in whatever market (local, regional, statewide, national, etc.) in your niche, then different approaches can replace traditional marketing avenues. But you still market in some way shape or form.
You still do so by offering workshops, a form of marketing yourself and your work. That's based on your success, a marketing tool for you for these workshops. Without that success your workshops would not have as much appeal.
A stepping process, a building process.
Again, my previous post was for those mainly trying to establish themselves, build, as well as maintenance of their business. It does not apply to everyone, but I think for the majority it does.
Matt's Photo Site
"I invent nothing, I rediscover". Auguste Rodin
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Blaze, you're making my point for me, actually.
No, I did not start with a yellow page ad or any other print ad or marketing. Yes, it was absolutely my display and word of mouth that built my business that rapidly. My very first clients averaged over $1200. It built steadily, due to word of mouth and high quality work.
If we're talking $600 - $1000 on a regular basis for direct mail, we're talking a major investment. Most people just beginning their business will not have the luxury of that kind of budget. Plus, don't forget postage which will add several hundred dollars to that cost.
Personally, even before I got into photography, I would never have called any portrait studio that marketed by direct mail. It just comes across as cheap, volume stuff. No matter how well done the piece, it would not suit the personality of my business.
Why spend such volumes of money when there are so many more effective and inexpensive ways to go about it? $1000 will pay for a lot of displays in specifically targetted places where people will see a whole lot more of your work than they can on a postcard. And the web is an incredibly inexpensive and very powerful marketing tool as well. I've NEVER paid to market my workshops anywhere. If you'd like to count the cost of my website, that would be $15/month.
Certainly I market. I just don't PAY to market.
Not at all.
Originally Posted by Cheryl Jacobs
Since the intent of this thread was to share your marketing efforts, why not do so? Your display...where did you place it? How many? Who designed it? It cost you nothing? How large? I'm sure many would appreciate that info, especially if they can market for free in this day and age.
Originally Posted by Cheryl Jacobs
And, If you haven't paid anything for marketing, then you did not do a direct mail piece, therefore your disagreement is not as valid if you had done it. If you believe it won't work for you, fine. But I don't think you can discount it as you did. If it comes across cheap and volume as you say, then it isn't done right.
I included postage and didn't forget that. I did forget (apologies) that I do most at wholesale cost pricing though. So here's a general breakdown (retail) for those who might try direct mail (1000 names/pieces) using outside sources:
• List of names - $100-$400
• 5.5x8.5 postcard printed (4/1) - $200
• mail sort/inkjet addressing - $225 (well worth it vs. by hand)
• Postage (bulk mail) - up to $390
• Professional design (optional) - $125-$300
What this thread is trying to do is to assimilate various marketing efforts. Direct mail is one of them, and a valid one for many. If not for you, or in your budget, there are many other avenues.
As a handout (or to leave at appropriate places) a postcard is also good to have on hand-something to hand a prospective client other than a biz card, as it can show a few samples of your work. Keep it simple, and I recommend no pricing so as not to date or invalidate your piece if your pricing increases.
Design your own and print for about $200. It adds a higher professional profile, i.e. "I'm serious about what I do enough to spend money advertising it". I have had many jobs as a result of leaving these at business and having on hand.
Inserts in local newsletters (chamber/non-profits) work for some. I did it way back, one time, got a couple calls (mostly for my design work) and one actual job. Cost was about $400 for 3500 pieces. ($200 insertion fee and $200 to print a one sided flier). The one job paid for the insertion plus a decent profit and to this day, still a current client.
Ads in local or regional magazines. Some will work a deal for discount or free ad if you provide certain services for them in return. Always ask if you can work a trade. It's worked for me and although I've only done 3 actual ads in the same regional magazine, they have each netted at least one gig. I paid for only one ad, traded for the others.
Affiliation and services to non-profits (i.e. symphony, arts council) has netted me dozens of good, high paying gigs from it's various sponsors and board members. To repeat, a good demographic as most board members are well off, successful people. Most.
The main thing is to determine your target market, research the options available as to how you can best address them. What works for one may not work for another.
There was a rule of thumb back when I got into marketing some 14 years ago, and that was to allocate 10-20% of your net profits back into marketing.
But I don't, and am more around 5%.
Again, many variables when deciding which marketing tool/avenue is right for you.
I've done about everything for my clients regarding marketing, and that has included a few national campaigns.
FWIW, I'll be doing a direct mail piece soon, targeting corporate for lobby display of fine art prints on a rental basis. As I will only be doing about 150-200 pieces, the cost is nominal to me vs. the possible return. I'm hoping for 1-2 to bite and hope to gain exposure, print sales or even commissions. Exposure is a given, the other a crapshoot. If none bite, then at least I added to the name branding. Sometimes the payoff comes way down the road.
Anyway, I hope others add to this and share what they've done or would like to do. It's a very competitive world out there with many who offer what we all do. Getting them to hire/represent us vs. them is the thing, be it fine art, or commercial.
One person here whose marketing efforts I commend is Kevin Saitta. Kevin sends out a regular newsletter to his mailing list which I assume is built upon those who have purchased his prints. And with his hand made bags and template website business, he's diversified and has marketed both well, at least on apug. And a "readership" of 17,000 isn't a bad place to do so.
I'd be interested (more) in what those who do strictly fine art photographs are doing to sell their work, aside from websites. If you only have a website, how are you directing traffic there?
Thanks for initiating this thread Bill, as I think it will be a good resource as long as posters address the threads intent with actual experience. What has worked-what hasn't for you? Why do you think it has worked and why do you think it hasn't?
Happy New Year to all,
Matt's Photo Site
"I invent nothing, I rediscover". Auguste Rodin
Yes, I did take a stab at the direct mail thing at the very beginning, and no I didn't pay for it. I had a friend in the marketing business, and we bartered. I abandoned it after it yielded absolutely nada. Not one client, not even a phone call that I could trace back to the direct mail.
I am speaking from direct experience. I'm a full-time professional photographer who built a high-end portrait business in two weeks, and grew from there. I think my experience is very valuable for those wishing to pursue a similar career.
I've already shared a whole lot of information about my display. Did you read it?
Rather than pay to do a print ad in a magazine, I prefer to write articles of interest for the magazine and/or offer up a unique angle for a magazine to do a feature on me. It costs me nothing, and often generates pay.
I also found ways to get my local news interested in my work, which generated two news features on prime time. The first came about from my pitching an idea directly to an anchorwoman via e-mail. The second came about in a similar way, except through a friend of mine with contacts at the TV station. No cost at all for either of those, and it generates a lot of name recognition and contributes to a the artists' reputation.
I print referral cards for each of my clients. Ten each, to be precise, with small credits for the referred client and a complimentary print for the referring client. These are readily passed around and shared because I put the client's own kids on the card, and it's fun for them to show them off. I apply a 30-day timeframe for the credit, which ensures that people will not have time to put off the session and forget to book.
I make complimentary photo bracelets with six images from the client's session in them. It costs me approximately ten dollars per bracelet, which is well covered by the session fee. I get many, many clients who call me after seeing another client's bracelet.
Most importantly, I talk. A lot. To a lot of people. You never know which contact knows someone who knows someone who will love your work and pay you well. Everybody I meet knows what I do for a living. I'm not obnoxious about it -- I don't have to be. Photography is seen as a 'sexy' career, even if it isn't in reality, so people are genuinely interested and ask a lot of questions. They ALWAYS ask for my card. I've booked sessions while chatting with someone on an airplane whose grandkids happened to live in Denver.
I have contributed to silent and live auctions for charity. While I feel good about helping a worthy cause, auctions have never generated any business at all for me. Still, it's a way of giving back and that's never bad. It's just not necessarily a great marketing tactic.
Ask me whatever else you might want to know, and I'd be happy to respond.
When I was deep into my commercial work, I can't say I ever once paid for any kind of marketing beyond the materials it took to put together a few portfolios and mail them to a few prospective clients. My experience was that my business grew via word of mouth after my first few solid clients, which were magazines. Art Directors move around a lot. One would leave and would tell the incoming AD about me. The work would continue to come from that publication as well as from the new publication the previous AD moved to. It was a win-win situation for a long time. The corporate and annual report jobs, which were far more lucrative, would come from these jobs as well. I was happy to see that people who hired me actually did read credit lines. I never once bought a page in the Black Book, etc. I'm certain I could have gotten more jobs had I spend money on advertising, but I was always comfortable, working and keeping things at a manageable level.
Originally Posted by Cheryl Jacobs
Cheryl... about these referral cards you make... how do you generate them exactly? And do you give them to the clients when you deliver prints? And, last question, are they good for 30 days from the time you give them to your client?
Great thread, everyone! Lots of good ideas. Thanks for starting it Bill.